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Beatles Tribute Brings \'Rock and Roll Music\' To Broadway
\'Rain - A Tribute to The Beatles\' opened on Broadway in late October to rave reviews. Rain, a Beatles tribute band, which was formed in the \'70s, has enjoyed several decades of touring triumphs around the globe. In 1977, \'Beatlemania\' opened on Broadway and was the start for many future members of the tribute band. It ran for two years before breaking off into multiple companies, which toured concurrently until 1983. The Broadway debut of \'Rain\' essentially brings things full circle.

At the audio helm of the Broadway debut is Abe Jacob, a world-renowned audio mixer/sound designer. Jacob\'s involvement on \'Rain\' is somewhat synchronistic, as he was the sound designer on the original \'Beatlemania\' show some thirty years ago—and was part of the sound crew for the Beatles last concert at San Francisco\'s Candlestick Park in 1966.

Working with Lew Mead, Director of Autograph A2D, Jacob\'s specified a DiGiCo SD8 for the Broadway production. Jacob fell in love with the console during his involvement in the massive audio overhaul of Lincoln Center\'s David H. Koch Theater in 2009. In addition, when it was decided that \'Rain\' was coming to Broadway, Jacob also suggested putting an SD8 out on the road with the band, so as to prepare them for an easy transition to New York.

\"We were then able to use the same programming from the road to set up the Broadway show,\" explained Jacob. \"We essentially took the USB key from the road and made the modifications that we needed for outputs etc. I was fortunate, as well, to be able to go out with the show when they did a preview in Toronto several months before New York. I spent a week with them and learned the show, which was crucial, because we literally only had a 3-day rehearsal period for the Broadway opening, with 3-4 hour soundchecks and week of previews. We\'re still doing some fine-tuning with the system because there\'s a lot of things you learn as you go along.\"

The SD8 was the perfect console for the show\'s needs, from features to footprint. \"We\'re running 48 inputs for 5 vocals, plus band instruments, keyboards and effects returns,\" offered Jacob. \"As for outputs, we have 9 matrix outputs, 8 stereo aux\'s to feed internal effects, plus 4 mono aux\'s to feed various programs from hearing impaired listening stations to stage manager/backstage monitors. With its small footprint, we didn\'t need to take out too many seats in the Broadway theatre, which is also important to producers. And the SD8 also had the quality and number of effects and features that I found that I needed. I was able to use the internal effects on the SD8 to create all of the effects that the Beatles had in their recordings—from double tracking, to chorusing, to flanging  plus reverbs. All of those functions were in the SD8 and we were able to utilize them to our advantage and to a great saving in time as well as money.\"

The SD8\'s onboard automation was ideal on \'Rain\', when it came to recalling various aspects and layers in the Fab Four\'s music. \"The show replicates the exact sound of The Beatles\' studio recordings and so the automation is wonderful for this application when we had radically different tone, gain, routing, and effects from song to song,\" added Jim van Bergen, Production Sound Engineer.  \"As the show would adapt and change daily, I often edited portions of the programming during soundcheck of another song, so being able to remove the surface from the current audio path to edit scenes offline quickly was very important to our operation. We\'re using just about every part of the automation, including a good amount of crossfades and heavy surround movement, and the detailed scope allowed me to control which elements were capable of being edited so that I could maintain the integrity of the key marks of a mix, yet make specific or global changes as needed. I look forward to seeing aliases and live update implemented in the future!\"

Back in 1978, when he originally designed the sound for \'Beatlemania\' on Broadway, which ran for almost 2 years, they didn\'t have the luxury of digital technology at their disposal. \"Everything was done in the analog world, so it was a much more difficult time,\" he recalled, \"but I think the results were the same. Now, being able to take what we did back then and have it translated into the digital world, where we\'re able to recreate things with some consistency, has been a great help. I know there\'s been some hesitancy on the part of designers and operators, sitting in front of a mixing desk that may be smarter than we are… There\'s an intimidation factor. But we have to accept it because it is what it is now, and we should have no fear of the future. We must use this technology to present the best possible productions we can. I love working with DiGiCo for this very reason. The sound quality is superior, and the support that we get from the company is vital and one of the main reasons that DiGiCo is the paramount sound desk company.\"

Looking back on the Beatles last live concert in San Francisco way back when, Abe mused at how far the technology has come since those heady days. \"We have more amplifier power in two stage monitors now than we did for the entire sound system at Candlestick Park! It was a pretty big system for those days but minimal by today\'s standards. Also, the band wasn\'t really heard by more than a few thousand people in the audience because of all the screaming girls. Just the fact that you could see them on second base, where the stage was, and the excitement in the house was something you just don\'t find much of today.\"

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